THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN

Collections in which comparable impressions of this woodcut can be found: Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Kupferstichkabinett), Berlin; Museum of Fine Arts (Department of Prints and Drawings), Boston; Herzon-anton-Ulrich-Museum (Kupferstichkabinett), Braunschweig:Kunstsammlungen des Veste (Kupferstich-Kabinett), Coburg; Staaliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich; Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Graphische Sammlung), Nuremberg; Bibliothèque Nationale (Cabinet des Estampes, Paris; Bibliothek Otto Schäfer (Sammlun-Otto-Schäfer), Schweinfurt; Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

Dürer’s setting for this woodcut is a typically German interior of the sixteenth century in which thirteen women in three distinct groupings are busily engaged in the tasks related to child-birth. Three of them on the left, form a triangle as a contrapposto to the opening of the drapes of the Virgin’s beadstead. The woman drinking has a knife in a sheath tied to her belt, and may be the midwife. The guardian angel, carrying a censer, invisible to the participants because he is pictured above a fringe of clouds, not only fills the otherwise empty space in the upper half of the sheet, but most importantly, serves as the only reminder of the solemn occasion. Dürer has added several amusing details: an elderly woman has fallen asleep, the infant is getting her first bath in the foreground, a pair of scissors has been placed on the chest on the left.

Signature: Signed in the block with the artist’s monogram on a tablet lower center.

Albrecht Dürer: Master Printmaker, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1971, nos. 67-68, p. 92 (ill.).

About Albrecht Dürer

Considered one of the foremost artists of the Renaissance period, Albrecht Dürer’s extensive work in printmaking transformed the categorization of the medium from craft to fine art. Often depicting religious subjects, Dürer’s woodcuts and engravings demonstrated unprecedented technical skill, tonal variation, and compositional sophistication. Dürer theorized extensively on linear perspective and anatomical proportion, concerns that were articulated in a vast body of written work as well as in his paintings and prints. Dürer’s skill earned him the role of court artist for Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I and Charles V, under whom he created a number of paintings and altarpieces. Dürer’s series of self-portraits, created throughout his career, represent some of his most iconic works.

German, 1471-1528, Nuremberg, Germany, based in Nuremberg, Germany

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